Three cheers to the Supreme Court! Citizens and cinema goers across the country will no longer need to wear patriotism across their sleeves. On Tuesday last, the apex court amended its own order passed a little over a year ago and has no longer made it mandatory for the cinema halls to play the National Anthem before screening a film and all those present to stand to show respect. The State governments too can heave a sigh of relief as activities of vigilante groups in enforcing the earlier order were proving to a headache for its authorities and it is a responsibility well shed. However, two governments, BJP-ruled Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, which had promptly issued notifications making it mandatory for cinema halls to play the anthem before the film screening, will need to rethink. Does the latest order apply to it and will the two scrap the notification? Delhi, so far wants to continue with the past order. How the cinema halls will react, is worth a watch. At the same time, the recent court order will remain in force till the Centre’s inter-ministerial committee, set up to look into all aspects related to singing and screening of the national anthem, gives its final report. Trust, there will be no more flip-flopping.
Kerala’s Stormy Ride
Kerala government is embarrassed pink. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s helicopter ride has the Opposition fuming and for good reason. It comes to light that the copter hired for Vijayan to ferry him to and fro from Thrissur to attend a party district conference was funded from the State’s disaster relief fund. While the government was merry pleased to having negotiated bringing down the cost from Rs 13 lakhs to Rs 8 lakhs, its order asking Thiruvananthapuram DC to release the amount triggered a row. It said the flight was for a ‘meeting with an inter-ministerial Central team, which was in Kerala to assess the Ockhi cyclone situation,’ which wasn’t the case. With the Opposition likening his action to that of “stealing from a beggar’s bowl”, Vijayan’s office cancelled the order. Will the CPM eventually pay for the helicopter ride as is being stated, is the big question?
Hindi Prayer Validity
States will be eyeing the Centre’s response to a big question before the Supreme Court: whether a Hindi prayer sung in Kendriya Vidyalaya schools promotes a particular religion and violates the Constitution? A Madhya Pradesh advocate, whose children passed out from a KV school, has petitioned saying all students have to compulsorily attend the morning assembly and recite the prayer; if they fail to do so are punished and humiliated in front of entire school. The practice, he argued makes students ‘develop an inclination towards seeking refuge from the almighty instead of developing a practical outcome towards obstacles faced in daily life, and the spirit of enquiry, reform seems to be lost.’ Worse, the prayer is a ‘religious instruction’ and should be prohibited under Article 28(1) of the Constitution, which says no religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of State funds. Importantly, “Parents and kids of minority communities as well as atheists and others such as agnostics, sceptics, rationalists and others would find the imposition of this prayer constitutionally impermissible,” was the bottom line. With the apex court acknowledging it is ‘a very important constitutional issue’, the Ministry of Human Resource Development will need to justify its order. Will it have a re-think?
Telangana Eyes Farmers
The idiom ‘better to be safe than sorry’ finds a ready taker in the Telangana Government. Even though elections are a long way off — April 2019, Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao wants to ensure his vote bank is intact, given the mood of the farmers in the country. On Wednesday last, a Cabinet sub-committee agreed to launch an Agriculture investment support scheme. Through this, a cash incentive of Rs 4000 an acre each for the 7.2 million-odd farmers in the State will be disbursed for the two main crop seasons-Rabi and Kharif. The scheme to be launched in mid-May will cost the TRS government a whooping amount of Rs 5,685 crore each agriculture season, as the State has 14.21 million acres of cultivable land. The committee has dealt with the modalities of disbursement of the amount i.e. by cheque rather than cash, but has not put a cap on the farmers’ eligibility for the incentive. However, while it will cross the bridge when it comes to it, the coming Budget session will provide the first inkling whether it’s a serious commitment or just an election ploy.
Caution Note To States
The Centre has a word of caution for States. With lakhs of people going overseas for greener pastures, the Ministry of External Affairs has put the onus on States/UTs to check the menace of malpractices by unregistered agents who hoodwink innocent people and thereafter abandon them, leaving them penniless and stranded. At a meeting with NRI Affairs ministers and officials of 25 States/UTs, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj put the ball in their court to take punitive action against these agents as it was a State subject. Ensure safe and legal migration overseas, as the Centre, she explained is hard pressed to secure their rescue and repatriation, and has a limited role. However, it will do well to have statistics to buttress its case and help States realise their responsibility. As of now the Ministry’s data only mentions lakhs of people migrating every year with almost 7-8 lakh going to Middle East countries, notified as “Emigration Check Required.” It takes two to tango.
Bihari Crisis Management
A lot is brewing in the RJD in Bihar with National President Lalu Yadav imprisoned last month. Son and Leader of Opposition Tejaswi Yadav appears to have taken over the reins and gone into damage control. For starters, the RJD seems to have successfully planned some comfort for Lalu. Two of its workers, said to be his ‘cooks’ surrendered in a ‘false case’ to lodge themselves in Ranchi’s Birsa Munda Central Jail, the same jail as Lalu’s and on the same date he was convicted! Apparently, they were named in an FIR by another local resident of Ranchi, who alleged the two had beaten him up and stolen Rs 10,000. Without wasting any time, the two surrendered before a local court, were remanded to judicial custody and haven’t applied for bail since. Guess, the successful manoeuvre gives the RJD hope– of loyalty remaining intact in this hour of crisis. Prompting Tejaswi to call division-wise meetings of party functionaries including former MPs, MLAs, MLCs and district presidents on Wednesday last. The message is to strengthen the organisation and enrol new members. How successful it will be in this endeavour, time will tell. —INFA